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Joe Biden speaking in Atlanta on Dec. 15. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Biden on Thursday said that a suspected Russian cyberattack on multiple government agencies and U.S. companies "is a matter of great concern" and promised to impose "substantial costs" to those responsible for the attack.

Driving the news: Biden's statement came just hours after the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency alerted that evidence suggested that additional malware was used in what it described as “a grave risk to the Federal Government and state, local, tribal, and territorial governments as well as critical infrastructure entities and other private sector organizations.”

Context: The cybersecurity firm FireEye said last week that its systems had been hacked by nation-state actors and that its clients, which include the U.S. government, had been placed at risk.

  • SolarWinds, which provides software to the government and corporations, also discovered a breach in its systems this week, allowing hackers to access information from multiple agencies and companies — including the Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security departments.

What they're saying: "I have instructed my team to learn as much as we can about this breach, and Vice President-elect Harris and I are grateful to the career public servants who have briefed our team on their findings and who are working around-the-clock to respond to this attack," Biden said on Thursday.

  • "A good defense isn’t enough; we need to disrupt and deter our adversaries from undertaking significant cyberattacks in the first place."
  • "We will do that by, among other things, imposing substantial costs on those responsible for such malicious attacks, including in coordination with our allies and partners. Our adversaries should know that, as president, I will not stand idly by in the face of cyber assaults on our nation."

The big picture: President Trump has been largely silent about the attack, though the White House has held emergency meetings with officials across multiple agencies to address the breach, according to Bloomberg.

Thomas Bossert, Trump's former homeland security adviser, wrote in the New York Times on Wednesday, "The magnitude of this ongoing attack is hard to overstate."

  • "It will take years to know for certain which networks the Russians control and which ones they just occupy."

Go deeper: Russian hacking group is behind Treasury and Commerce email breach

Go deeper

DHS warns of "heightened threat" because of domestic extremism

Supporters of former President Trump protest inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued an advisory warning of a "heightened threat environment" in the U.S. because of "ideologically-motivated violent extremists."

Why it matters: DHS believes the threat of violence will persist for "weeks" following President Biden's inauguration. The extremists include those who opposed the presidential transition, people spurred by "grievances fueled by false narratives" and "anger over COVID-19 restrictions ... and police use of force[.]"

U.S. ambassador to Russia will return home briefly: State Department

John Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, during a briefing in Moscow in 2015. Photo: Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS via Getty Images

The State Department said Monday that the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, will now be returning to the United States this week before returning to Moscow "in the coming weeks."

Why this matters: The statement, from a State Department spokesperson, comes just hours after Axios reported that Sullivan had indicated he intended to stand his ground and stay in Russia after the Kremlin “advised” him to return home to talk with his team.

Scoop: Leaked Ukraine memo reveals scope of Russia's aggression

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits a military exposition in Sevastopol, Crimea, in Jan. 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russia has been holding last-minute military exercises near commercial shipping lanes in the Black Sea that threaten to strangle Ukraine's economy, according to an internal document from Ukraine's ministry of defense reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: With the eyes of the world on the massive buildup of troops in eastern Ukraine, the leaked memo shows Russian forces escalating their presence on all sides of the Ukrainian border.

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